My children have never had issues transitioning from school to summer vacation. Neither have any of my clients.
We all naturally celebrate summer by changing our routine. Camp replaces school, vacations become the norm and homework becomes a distant memory.
Until the first official back-to-school notice arrives.
It’s a transition for everyone, both mentally and physically, no matter how many times you do it.
The one thing I have learned over the course of my career, as a mom, speech therapist and founder of Great Speech, is that organization is the key.
Most of us are not born organizers. Rather, organization is an acquired skill requiring ongoing nurturing by the adults in the family.
The benefits are numerous. Organization breeds focus, productivity, efficiency and academic success. It helps us set goals, prioritize tasks and meet deadlines. Ultimately, being organized is an important tool in reducing anxiety and promoting self-confidence.
While the stakes are higher as we grow older, the importance of organization is crucial even in preschool. There are parent consent forms and assignments to bring home and then returned with a signature. I recently visited a three-year old class where there was a visual chart outlining the morning sequencing routine: hang up your coat and backpack, empty out your communication folder, sign in, do your daily job and say good morning to the teacher.
Task sequencing is an important organizational tool.
In elementary school, you may not only have to write down the homework assignment, but also bring home the appropriate books, complete the assignment and put it somewhere in your backpack where you can find it upon request.
Organization begins at home. The more organized you are, the better the transition. Understandably, this puts a lot of pressure on you as parents, but our role in setting the tone for the school year is crucial.
Here are my three favorite strategies to facilitate the back-to-school process:
· Create a routine and ease into it: Involve all family members into creating the schedule for school as well as the transition routine. Use an app or large calendar to map out the daily, weekly and monthly schedules to create a realistic routine. If bedtime has been lax, start working on a routine. If TV time has been unlimited, start cutting back to realistic school levels.
· Promote organization through conversation: Most people think of organizing as the physical act of putting things in the right place. But organizing is also a mental process and a great way to encourage organized behavior is through conversation. Taking the time to talk about what you did today and what you plan to do tomorrow is a way to teach sequencing skills and demonstrate how what you do today impacts your plan for tomorrow. Dinner time is the perfect venue for these type of family conversations.
· Move from organization to executive functioning: While regular conversations focusing on planning promotes organized thinking, taking it to the next level will promote executive functioning, a set of essential mental skills are critical for academic success, play a key role in social interaction and impact both oral and written communication.
Wondering how to promote organization and executive functioning skills. Here are three of my favorite starter tips:
- Designate a quiet, neat, clutter-free area for homework with easy access to all school-related supplies. Identify a centrally located place for backpacks to avoid the last minute morning rush.
- Make “organizing the backpack” part of the nighttime routine. You can either do it together or have your child do it under your watchful eye. The ultimate goal is for them to eventually do it regularly on their own with a thorough cleaning every Sunday. I still clean out my purse every Sunday night, a remnant from my childhood routine.
- Shop together for school supplies that are color-coded. Visual cues are super-helpful for executive functioning and especially for organizing preschool kids.
Looking for other GREAT Speech tips? Download our eBook or email us about our Executive Functioning Training program.